flowers for Joyce
I've been wanting to write all week about the flowers we picked and made into an airy, natural casket spray for the funeral of Barney's completely delightful grandmother, Joyce, who thrived until she was nearly ninety nine years old, and then just grew weary of outliving everyone else she knew. However, the telegraph pole at the bottom of our lane has been skewiff all week, and the story is that a young farmer drove into it tipsy one afternoon last week, and was then seen making a dash on foot across the fields in a blue boiler suit. Now it is mended, and I can tell you all about Joyce. She was born on a west country farm, and used to tell us with great relish about how the children ate clotted cream on their breakfast toast, and how she had a pet lamb who really did follow her to school. She married a submariner who had horribly hair-raising wartime experiences while they were still only twenty one, and then she lived in Athens and in Singapore with the Navy, a life that sounded elegant and sociable and adventurous. They lived a long time in Greece and Joyce spoke what she called "kitchen Greek" with the many friends they collected, always laughing, always interesed, always quick to turn the conversation away from herself ("Oh, nobody's interested in me, darling!"). She was always sprinkling salt on her food, and making anyone and everyone feel at home and fascinating, and letting her eyes rove towards the fridge (where the white wine was kept) at six o'clock.
Joyce's style was elegant and ladylike - chiffon scarves and neatly buttoned cardigans - and her home was comfortable with duck egg blue upholstery and shiny with naval mementoes. There were always flowers; she loved visitors to bring her snowdrops, or something from their gardens. When it came to picking flowers for her funeral, it seemed just right that there should be lots of spirea 'bridal wreath' in bloom, fresh and elegant and pretty, just like Joyce. The silvery leaves of the eucalyptus we planted last year reminded me of her sitting room, and we had lots of tulips in soft shades of pink, cream, white, mauve and lemon. The hyacinths smelt nice and reminded me of Joyce because she liked smelly flowers, and the little snakeshead fritillaries looked nice bobbing about above the other flowers. Pear blossom for the farm. Then I found some tiny grape hyacinths, muscarii 'Valerie Finnis' I think, and discovered that they would last in oasis. I put these in last to contrast with the other softer coloured flowers and again they reminded me of Joyce: not too neat and matching; nothing too serious and formal; everything fun.